"I don't have no more tears right now, but the pain is in my chest. I still feel my son is still alive, in my heart," Carlos Aguilar said after Gainesville Police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias announced that Pedro Bravo had been charged with the murder of Christian Aguilar, whose body still has not been found.
Carlos Aguilar made a new plea to law enforcement to keep searching for the body of his son on Monday.
“Do not give up on my son. We need the FBI to join the search for Christian,” Carlos Aguilar said in a written statement. “We need his body to be found to create a solid case and make sure Pedro never walks outside of a jail cell.”
Gainesville Police have previously said that the FBI was one of the numerous agencies contributing to the search for Christian Aguilar, 18, a University of Florida freshman who was last seen with his Doral high school classmate Pedro Bravo, 18, on Sept. 20.
The federal agency has been assisting with some analytical work, police said last week.
Nevertheless, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen also said Monday that she – at Carlos Aguilar’s request – has “asked the FBI to assist local law enforcement with their top-notch expertise and vast resources in the case of missing UF student Christian Aguilar.”
“The Aguilar family and all who know Christian deserve closure in this tragically devastating case,” the Miami Republican said in a written statement.
A FBI spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
Gainesville Police charged Bravo with first-degree premeditated murder on Friday, four days after he was arrested on another charge, depriving a crime victim of medical care. He is being held without bond in Alachua County.
A service in memory of Aguilar will be held Wednesday at 8 p.m. at Prince of Peace Catholic Church at 12800 NW 6th St. in Miami, the church said Monday.
There will not be a Mass, and all are invited regardless of faith or religious belief.
According to police, Bravo bought a shovel and roll of duct tape “several days” before the disappearance of Aguilar, who was his classmate at Doral Academy Preparatory High School. Police said they found blood in Bravo’s SUV – which is being tested and compared with DNA samples from Aguilar – and also found the missing student’s backpack hidden inside a suitcase in Bravo’s closet.
Bravo changed his story after being confronted with evidence but hasn’t been cooperative with detectives, according to police.
Bravo’s attorney, Ron Kozlowski, disputed that characterization this weekend, however.
“We’ve told you this before. Since the day the police first questioned him, they had him for somewhere between 8 to 12 hours," Kozlowski said Saturday. "They talked to him, they interrogated him, he drove them around town, he showed them what he said he knew."
In a police interview on that day, Sept. 21, Bravo said that he had punched Aguilar in the face during an altercation before demanding that Aguilar get out of his vehicle, according to the arrest report police released for Bravo’s charge of depriving a crime victim of medical care.
Bravo admitted that he got out of his SUV and followed Aguilar, police said.
“Bravo stated that he tripped Aguilar, jumped onto his chest with both of his knees and to further beat Aguilar with his hands, elbows and feet,” police wrote.
Bravo said he kept beating Aguilar for 10 to 15 minutes, the report said.
“Bravo stated that Aguilar was bloody, swollen and barely breathing or moving after the beating,” the report said. “According to Bravo, he left Aguilar in a wooded area unable to seek medical attention, or contact anyone for assistance. Bravo never called anyone to assist Aguilar with his life-threatening injuries.”
Bravo dropped off Aguilar near a motorcycle shop, according to police.
Authorities and volunteers have not been able to find Aguilar in 10 days of searching around Gainesville.
On Monday, Carlos Aguilar asked the University of Florida to help disseminate information on the case to its students, saying that some students on campus aren’t familiar with it.
“Someone on campus may have seen Pedro’s truck or my son. Someone on campus may have the key to finding his body,” the father said.
Meantime, Sweetwater Mayor Manny Maroño, the city’s police chief and 10 police officers said they plan to go back to Gainesville on Tuesday at 4 a.m. with 10 ATVs for the search.
Ros-Lehtinen said the Aguilar case “reminds me of another missing Miami-Dade youngster, Emory University student Shannon Melendi.”
“My office and I continue to help the Melendi family in all they have asked for and we shall do the same for the Aguilar family,” she said.
Doral Academy is collecting monetary donations to help with the search. In addition, the city of Sweetwater said that donations, machetes, rubber boots and snacks can be dropped off at City Hall, at 500 SW 109th Place, on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m.